Fantasy mailbag: Addai ranks among fantasy football elite

What sort of value will Joseph Addai have in 2008? I owned him in a seasonal league last season -- he was solid at first but faded out in the second half. I also feel like there's concern with the Indianapolis Colts clinching the postseason sooner than later, in which case I would lose Addai when I need him the most. -- M. Pija, Argentina

Michael Fabiano: The NFL can be unpredictable (who expected the New York Giants to win three road games in the postseason, defeat the "unbeatable" New England Patriots and win Super Bowl XLII after a an 0-2 regular-season start?), so I wouldn't devalue Addai based on the chance that the Colts will clinch the postseason and rest their starters. Addai did fall off a bit down the stretch last season, but he still finished with close to 1,100 rushing yards and an impressive 15 total touchdowns. Once the top four backs in fantasy football (LaDainian Tomlinson, Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, Brian Westbrook, Steven Jackson) are selected, I wouldn't hesitate to draft Addai in the first round as a No. 1 runner.

Mike, do you have any sleeper running backs for owners in deeper leagues? Also, how do you expect DeShaun Foster to perform in San Francisco? -- C. McConnell, Winder, Ga.

M.F.: I have talked a lot about Houston's Chris Taylor, who will be an excellent sleeper candidate if the team doesn't take a running back in April's NFL Draft. Outside of Taylor, other backs to watch in larger leagues include Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael Bush, Brian Calhoun, Chicago's Adrian Peterson and Kenny Watson. None of these runners is atop their team's current depth charts, but a solid training camp and preseason or one long-term injury to a starter could open the door for them to shine in a more prominent role.

Foster didn't sign a huge contract with San Francisco, but he's still considered the favorite to finish second on the team's depth chart behind incumbent starter Frank Gore. He isn't the sort of back who warrants a prominent role on fantasy teams anymore, but Foster is a smart move for owners who select Gore in the first or second round of drafts.

I haven't heard much talk about Vernon Davis' value for next season. Should he be considered a top-10 tight end and a breakout candidate under Mike Martz? -- L. Benson, Little Rock, Ark.

M.F.: Davis, who comes in at No. 9 on NFL.com tight ends rank list, has all the skills to be a solid starter in fantasy land. However, injuries have hurt his climb to elite status. Furthermore, a recent Pro Football Weekly report suggests Davis has made a lot of mistakes as a starter in his two NFL seasons. New offensive coordinator Mike Martz is known for his in-depth and complex playbook, so Davis will have a lot to absorb this offseason. The potential to perform well in Martz's offense is evident, so look for Davis to be drafted as a low-end No. 1 fantasy tight end.

I'm in an auction keeper league and will retain Marshawn Lynch ($16) and Brandon Marshall ($4), but I need to keep one more player from Drew Brees ($16), Andre Johnson ($10), Calvin Johnson ($10) and Santonio Holmes ($22). We have a $125 salary cap. Who should I choose? -- T. Wardyn, Morrill, Neb.

M.F.: Brees is a nice value for $16 in a league with a $125 salary cap, but I would have to side with Andre Johnson. He's an absolute steal for $10, as he would no doubt warrant at least $18 or more in the auction. If he can avoid injuries and start at least 14 contests next season, I'd look for Johnson to push both Randy Moss and Terrell Owens as one of the premier wide receivers in fantasy football.

I'm in a 12-team dynasty league and have been offered the No. 1 overall selection in our rookie draft and Marion Barber in exchange for the No. 9 overall selection and LaDainian Tomlinson. Should I make this trade? -- T. Lankin, Detroit, Mich.

M.F.: While some would disagree, I think this deal makes a lot of sense. Sure, Tomlinson is still considered the No. 1 runner in fantasy football, but he turns 29 before the start of this season and is coming off the first serious knee ailment of his career. With an average of close 340 regular-season carries per season, Tomlinson could be headed towards the last ultra-productive season of his career in 2008. Barber, 24, has scored an impressive 28 total touchdowns over the past two seasons and is expected to be the new starter in Dallas regardless of what the team does in the draft. With the first pick in the draft, you'll also be able to land a back with incredible upside in Darren McFadden.

I'm in a 10-team league that will turn into a keeper league this season. We can retain one player per position, and I have Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai, Brandon Jacobs, Willis McGahee, Braylon Edwards and Terrell Owens. Aside from Manning, who should I retain? -- R. Keeling, Indianapolis, Ind.

M.F.: Manning is a surefire keeper at the quarterback position. I'd also retain Addai over McGahee and Jacobs and Edwards over Owens. Addai, 24, still hasn't hit his ceiling for rushing and receiving yards and should continue to thrive in Indianapolis into the forseeable future with Manning under center. T.O. is a star in seasonal formats, but he loses some luster in keeper leagues based on the fact that he turns 35 this winter. Edwards, 25, broke out in 2007 and should be a touchdown machine for seasons to come.

I'm in a 10-team, PPR keeper league where we surrender the round of the players we retain. I have Peyton Manning (Round 2), Andre Johnson (Round 4), Terrell Owens (Round 4), Michael Turner (Round 14) and Ryan Grant (Round 16). I have the No. 9 overall selection in the first round of our re-draft. Which three should I retain? -- S. Harrison, Simpsonville, S.C.

M.F.: It's hard to pass on the man with the laser, rocket arm (Manning). He's a virtual lock to record 4,000-plus passing yards and 30-plus total touchdowns. As much as I like Johnson, how can you pass on Turner for a 14-round selection and Grant for a 16th rounder? Since most of the owners in your league will retain at least one back that will cost them a first- or second-round choice, I'd bet you'll be able to re-acquire Johnson, Owens or a comparable wide receiver with one of your first two selections in the re-draft.

I have Justin Fargas in a keeper league, and I'm worried about all this talk about Darren McFadden in silver and black. Should I retain Julius Jones instead? -- C. Tanbald, Louisville, Ky.

M.F.: Reports out of Oakland suggest team owner Al Davis loves McFadden, but head coach Lane Kiffin might not be sold. The Raiders re-signed Justin Fargas and Dominic Rhodes and both Michael Bush and LaMont Jordan are still on the roster, so Oakland would seem to be set in its backfield headed into next season. Fargas is the current favorite to be atop the team's depth chart in Week 1, but keeper league owners still need to keep close tabs on next month's draft. If McFadden does became the latest member of Raider Nation and Seattle releases fallen fantasy football hero Shaun Alexander, then Jones should be retained ahead of Fargas.

Will Antonio Bryant or Keary Colbert warrant much fantasy consideration in 2008? Also, should I retain Frank Gore or Ryan Grant? -- D. Connors, Key Biscayne, Fla.

M.F.: Bryant missed all of last season, but at 27 he still has upside on a team that lacks playmakers in the pass attack. Head coach Jon Gruden told the St. Petersburg Times he believes the team can provide Bryant a chance to "take off" next season, so the rest will all depend on the wideout's motivation and preseason performance. Should he impress Gruden and the Buccaneers coaching staff, I can see Bryant starting opposite Joey Galloway and being worth a late-round flier in fantasy football drafts.

Colbert, who signed with Denver in the offseason, is currently projected to start opposite Brandon Marshall. In fact, head coach Mike Shanahan compared Colbert to former Broncos wideout Ed McCaffrey, whose career didn't take off until he came to the Mile High City. Colbert did show flahes of potential as a rookie with Carolina, but he has quite a bit to prove before he'll escape the comparisons to current Southern California wideouts who haven't meet expectations at the NFL level. At best, Colbert will be worth a late-round flier.

To answer your final question, I would retain Gore ahead of Grant.

Where does the Oakland defense rank in fantasy football after the addition of CB DeAngelo Hall? I think the Raiders now have the best defensive backfield in football. Is this a top-10 fantasy unit? -- W. Johanssen, Norway

M.F.: I've moved the Raiders into the top 25 in NFL.com's defensive rank list for next season, but this unit still has to improve on what was the 31st-ranked run defense last season. Also remember that this unit was a solid eighth in the league in total pass defense with the likes of CB Nnamdi Asomugha and SS Michael Huff in the mix, so there's not a ton of room for improvement even with Hall on the roster.

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